Gospel: John 16:12-15
1st Reading: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-5
Here we are on Holy Trinity Sunday, celebrating several ways we try to put something into words that cannot be described, God. The Bible is full of words and phrases and titles to describe God—lets start with King of Kings. What are some others that come to mind? (Prince of Peace, Yahweh, the Lamb, Savior, Creator, the still small voice). But any time we try describe the indescribable, we get into trouble, because we leave something out. We never quite cover it.
I've been struggling talking about God and Jesus to Sterling. Yes, they are two members of the Trinity. We worship one God, in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is like the three leaves of the shamrock, like the layers of an onion, the reason I am one person, but I am also a mother, a pastor, and friend. We pray in Jesus' name. We read the stories about Jesus. Jesus prays to the Father. If they are one, why does he pray to the Father? It gets so confusing sometimes.
The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. One of the phrases that comes from early Lutheranism that we often claim for ourselves is “Solo Scriptura” or “Scripture alone.” We might be missing the mark if we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday and say that we on only scripture. But we're trying to understand what the Bible is telling us about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the functions of the parts. We're coming up with a term, not found in the Bible, to describe the One God we believe in. The word “Trinity” comes from the very early church—about 180 AD, so it isn't that awfully new. That writer was describing something he did find in directly in scripture, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I could bore you with a long sermon of arguments and history about the Trinity, but as I've said, words fall short. Instead I am going to share with you my experience of the Trinity this week.
I've been feeling woefully inadequate, stressed and grouchy. My child is testing the limits. For over four years he's been coming to work with me. Many of you have been gracious, helping to watch him while I visited people in the hospital, or putting up with some interruptions from him during meetings. It has come to the point that my work was starting to suffer. Earlier this week I looked into putting him into a co-op preschool where the parents volunteer hours so there is little or no cost, but the hours were not the best for us. We'd have to drive up to NE Portland and back twice on those days, for drop off and pick up. I have been in tears, lay awake sleepless, anything but asking for help, actually.
And I've run into a couple of people this week who were also feeling woefully inadequate, stressed, and grouchy. One made a financial mistake and felt really stupid and sick about it. She had to admit it to some family members and feel awkward. The other couldn't keep her calendar straight and missed an important appointment and just feels like there's no way she'll ever get organized. And these two people made me feel so much better to be imperfect and stressed and flawed! I wasn't glad they were miserable, but I could see myself so much more clearly. We all make mistakes. We make the same mistakes over and over again. We have a lot to work on!
What does this have to do with the Trinity? First, that God is the only one who is perfect and complete, through and through. I don't need to be, because no one else is but God, and God is the one who made me good, who helps me learn from my mistakes, and felt what it is like to be limited by a human body and sometimes frustrated with those limits, and who accepts me for who I am while still having hopes that I can learn and grow from my shortcomings. I can look to God who is complete, and not have to be everything and do everything.
Secondly, God has always found perfection in relationship. God is Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three persons are perfect in unity. God is relational. At the beginning of Creation, as we hear in Proverbs, the Creator was forming the earth and sky and water and mountains and animals and people. But not the Creator alone. Wisdom, also known as Sophia and Holy Spirit, was there at the beginning, ordering all the creation into interrelated parts. Spirit is breath, giving life to all creatures. The Spirit sets the limits of each part of creation so that no one part impedes on another.
Let me take a moment and say that even humans were assigned a limit at the creation which were meant to guide us and preserve a place for us among creation. One of those limits are that we are stewards of creation, responsible to see that creation flourishes. We have pushed those limits, and at times put ourselves in the place of God, losing track of our proper place and destroying what God has made. By transgressing that limit, we have sinned against God and against other living things, and endangered humankind. If we destroy this world, where will we live? This pollution we've created already causes the premature death of too many people. We are destroying ourselves. We are uncreating what God has created. How do we live within life-giving limits? Do we even value the limits that the Spirit gives us as a gift?
Those limits are where our freedom and growth impede the freedom and growth of others of God's Creation. When we do that we deny our relationship and interrelatedness with other creatures. God the Holy Trinity is life-giving relationship-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to one another and with us and all Creation. To know our limit and honor it, is to honor relationships and this life God gives not just us but all creatures.
We know that not just the Creator but also the Holy Spirit, Holy Wisdom is present at creation and we know that Jesus is present at creation. God, the Trinity, is present at Creation. If you remember the beginning of the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him....What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” That word that was in the beginning was Jesus, “And the word became flesh and lived among us...full of grace and truth.” God the Creator spoke the word Jesus, and Holy Spirit Wisdom ordered and arranged that word and gave it life. God the Creator made all Creation. Jesus came to redeem all Creation and bring us back to God when we got lost. And the Holy Spirit sustains all creation, keeps that life force constantly flowing, empowering us for ministry.
This week my relief finally came—Sterling's preschool can take him two more days a week at a very affordable price. Our Triune, relational God, comes to us in relationships of caring and sharing. Because of the relationship and connectedness of my extended community, Trinity relatedness is getting me through. I can't believe the weight that has been lifted. How quickly we can go from helpless to rejoicing, from broken and grouchy, to hopeful and connected!
Now I must not waste this gift that I have received. I must use it to give glory to God. I am thankful to Sterling's preschool and teachers. I am thankful for this community of faith that has stepped in and cared for him often. I am thankful for a neighborhood in which people have some time and energy to share. I am thankful to God for all these gifts. And I hope I've learned my lesson—that I have to let people help me, I have to tell my stories of not being enough, of discouragement, of helplessness, because our wounds are places we can connect with each other, where we are real and authentic, we can feel each other's pain and be strengthened by relationship. When we admit our suffering and pain, we admit the need for others and our lack of power and control, and others can relate to us. In community, God comes to us, bringing the help we have hesitated to call out for because we've been too proud.
Boast in our suffering—probably not. Admit weakness and vulnerability—I'll work on that. And because of relationship with God and people around me and God's good Creation, I won't stay in suffering, but I'll find hope in connection, hope in the strength of Trinity, hope in relationship.
The woman who made the mistake, found out she wasn't as far off as she feared and in reaching out to her brother, found kindness and understanding. The woman who couldn't get her schedule together, still can't get her schedule together, but she's got our phone number and she knows our expectations of her, our limits, as well as our forgiving hearts, ready to try again.
We also should keep in mind those who aren't as well connected, who don't have the relationship of community and the help that many of us have the privilege to enjoy. Many times we work on building relationships with those who have something we want or who are more powerful than we are, to try to lift ourselves up in the world. But think of Christ. He did just the opposite. He was building relationships with those nobody else would acknowledge. He was building a lifeline to them. As the body of Christ in the world, now we get to live the Holy Trinity way, relationally with all those around us, especially keeping in mind those who Christ would be sure to connect with, the poor and hurting, those who are alone. That is what will build the Kingdom of God, one connection and relationship at a time. We have the privilege of introducing the Holy Trinity to those we meet and connect with.